Pedro rocked as Braves hand Mets fourth straight loss

ATLANTA (AP) -- Pedro Martinez had endured all sorts of injuries this year. It started in spring training with a sore toe. Then his hip began to hurt. And now comes the ailment that will likely knock the New York Mets' ace out of the first round of the playoffs.

The Cardinals finally win thanks to Albert Pujols, but the Astros keep pace. The Mets look terrible in a loss to the Braves. What is Pedro Martinez's postseason status?

Baseball Today

Martinez, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, was rocked again in his final start of the regular season, giving up eight hits, seven runs and two homers in 2 2/3 innings of a 13-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

Slowed this time by an ailing calf, Martinez said he's got no confidence in his pitches and all but conceded that he won't start in Game 1 of the NL playoffs next week -- if he's able to pitch at all in the opening round.

"I've worked hard to try and get back, but obviously I'm not 100 percent," Martinez said. "I don't feel healthy."

The Mets, who wrapped up the NL East title with nearly two weeks left in the regular season, have dropped four straight and seven of eight. New York lost the first two games of its series at Turner Field by a combined score of 25-1.

Atlanta tagged the Mets for five homers, including two by Jeff Francoeur, and twice went deep with back-to-back hitters. Francoeur, Chipper Jones and Brian McCann had three RBI apiece.

Martinez (9-8), who recently spent a month on the disabled list with the calf injury, took his third straight loss since being activated and fourth in a row overall. He was yanked after giving up a run-scoring double to fellow pitcher Tim Hudson, pushing the Braves to a 7-0 lead.

Mets manager Willie Randolph walked slowly to the mound and had a brief chat with Martinez. Third baseman David Wright tried to perk up the pitcher, patting him several times on his right shoulder before he trudged to the dugout.

"I was leaving a lot of pitches in the middle of the plate," Martinez said. "That's not where you want to leave it for big-league hitters."

The poor outing throws into question how the Mets will set up their rotation for the playoffs, which begin next week with the best-of-five division series. Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez are penciled in for starts, but Randolph had hoped to use Martinez in
Game 1.

"Obviously, he didn't pitch too well," Randolph said. "We'll have to wait and see."

Still, the Mets will apparently need another option. Martinez has a 16.97 ERA over his last four starts, giving up 22 hits and 20 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings.

"The way it's looking right now, Willie will not have a tough decision about who should pitch Game 1," Martinez said. "Obviously, the other guys are in better shape than I am. It would be a bad decision for Willie to put me out there from what he's seen."

If the injury had occurred earlier in the season, Martinez would probably be pitching rehab games in the minors. That's not an option at this point.

"I've got to do it in the big leagues," he said. "I'm putting my numbers in jeopardy, I'm putting my team in jeopardy, I'm putting myself in jeopardy. But that's the only way to get better."

Hudson (13-12) allowed four hits and the lone New York run in six-plus innings, avoiding the first losing season of his career.

Martinez insisted a day earlier that he was over his calf problem, but that was clearly wishful thinking. McCann and Francoeur hit back-to-back homers in a six-run third that chased the right-hander, who felt stiff and uncomfortable. He went behind the mound several times to clean dirt out of his cleats and fiddled frequently with the resin bag.

"It's a little bit different Pedro," Chipper Jones said. "He used to overpower you in the past. Now he uses his savvy and his guile to go out there and get you out. And when pitchers who have to rely on off-speed stuff are not quite spot on, they get hit pretty hard."

Andruw Jones started the second with a walk and scored on McCann's double to the wall.

The Braves broke it open in the third. Marcus Giles led off with a single, Edgar Renteria doubled and Chipper Jones hit a run-scoring single to right. Andruw Jones grounded into a forceout, driving in another run, and McCann followed with a two-run shot over the wall in left-center on a 2-0 pitch.

Martinez then fell behind to Francoeur, who drove another one over the wall in nearly the same spot on a 3-1 breaking ball that hung over the plate. Scott Thorman struck out swinging, but Ryan Langerhans singled to right and Hudson sent one all the way to the wall in left-center for a run-scoring double.

That was it for Martinez, who said he's ready to accept a reduced role in the playoffs.

"I hope I'll be healthy enough to pitch in relief," he said. "Maybe I'll be able to go two or three innings."

Atlanta scored five more runs in the sixth off Darren Oliver -- all of them with homers. Chipper Jones hit a two-run shot. So did Francoeur, whose second homer of the game was a massive shot that just missed the second deck in left. Thorman followed with a liner that barely cleared the wall.

It was the first time since June 13, 1998, that Atlanta twice hit back-to-back homers in a game.

Game notes
After taking over in center for Andruw Jones, Langerhans made a catch worthy of the perennial Gold Glover in the seventh. Running full speed with his back to plate, Langerhans leaped to
snare Michael Tucker's drive before sliding along the grass on his stomach.